Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Four Days Late, Cheney Acknowledges Shooting, Then Offers Spin, Spin, Spin

Vice President Dick Cheney today accepted full blame for shooting a fellow hunter, but defended his decision to not publicly disclose the accident until the following day.

"I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry (Whittington)," Cheney told Fox News Channel's Brit Hume, in his first public comments since the shooting Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Cheney has been under intense political pressure to speak out about the shooting incident, which has become a public relations embarrassment and potential political liability for the White House. Until Wednesday, Cheney had refused to comment on why he withheld information about the shooting, which prolonged the controversy and made him the butt of jokes.

Cheney was, as Hume later described, "unapologetic," about his decision to delay releasing news of the accident, and to allow the ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, to release the news to a local newspaper, rather than take the more established route of releasing a statement to the White House press corps.

Cheney offer a questionable excuse for delaying releasing information to the press, but makes no effort to defend having Armstrong release the news to the local newspaper. Perhaps even he can't spin that one.

CHENEY: (W)e really didn’t know until Sunday morning that Harry was probably going to be okay, that it looked like there hadn’t been any serious damage to any vital organ. And that’s when we began the process of notifying the press.

HUME: Well, what — you must have recognized, though, with all your experience in Washington, that this was going to be a big story.

CHENEY: Well, true, it was unprecedented. I’ve been in the business for a long time and never seen a situation quite like this. ...

HUME: Well, did it occur to you that sooner was — I mean, the one thing that we’ve all kind of learned over the last several decades is that if something like this happens, as a rule sooner is better.

CHENEY: Well, if it’s accurate. If it’s accurate. And this is a complicated story.

HUME: But there were some things you knew. I mean, you knew the man had been shot, you knew he was injured, you knew he was in the hospital, and you knew you’d shot him.

CHENEY: Correct.

HUME: And you knew certainly by sometime that evening that the relevant members of his family had been called. I realize you didn’t know the outcome, and you could argue that you don’t know the outcome today, really, finally.

CHENEY: As we saw, if we’d put out a report Saturday night on what we heard then — one report came in that said, superficial injuries. If we’d gone with a statement at that point, we’d have been wrong. And it was also important, I thought, to get the story out as accurately as possible, and this is a complicated story that, frankly, most reporters would never have dealt with before, so —

***

So there's the official excuse. The story was "complicated."

So of course, it made more sense to allow a neighbor to relate the story to the local newspaper, where a weekend reporter who normally covers health and fitness took the call, and got the scoop of a lifetime. Certainly, a reporter at a newspaper with a circulation of 88,000 would be better able to handle a "complicated story," than the White House press corps, which in theory includes some of the most prestigious reporters in the country.

Even Hume -- about as administration-friendly reporter as Cheney could find -- seems to have a hard time swallowing Cheney's spin.

It's pretty clear, if not before then certainly from this interview, that Cheney has no love for the White House press corps, and saw no reason to include them in the "process."

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post...but it is "Katharine" Armstrong, FYI.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Ditto said...

They had 'beer' at lunch. His close personal friend and spokesperson for that day, Ms. Armstrong, said that after the accident, upon returning to the house Cheney fixed himself a cocktail. (He has been convicted of drunk driving twice.) He also said in the Faux interview that he would never hunt with anyone drinking just after saying they drank and went hunting. (Faux News groupies don't sweat the pesky details!)

This the most-connected, high-tech VP detail in the history of the nation left the release of information up to the discretion of the private citizens that owned the property.
Yes, the official story seems quite simple. A simple hunting accident - it happens all the time (just not the VPOTUSA).

What was Dick concerned would be misconstrued? What made the release of information "complicated"? The FIRST official reason given for the delay was that their primary concern was the proper medical care for the victim. The entire Vice Presidential entourage was providing medical care to the victim for 14 hours, all hands on deck! Except for when Dick got freed-up and put in a call to Andrew Card and Karl Rove. Then they had to get their story "accurate" for the sake of the nation, and it took hours and hours? According to the sheriff, during this time his deputies heard the call for an ambulance but were refused entry onto the property by Armstrong's security guards.

The 3D model representing the victim's wound appeared to show a blast radius of 18 to 22" max. And they said Cheney was 30 yards away when he shot his friend? I've shot heavier gauge shotguns but never a 28 gauge - is that a typical spread at 30 yards? What is the likelihood of that light gauge buckshot penetrating multiple layers of heavy hunting garb and human flesh to a depth sufficient that pellets were lodged in, or migrated to the victim's heart? Magic buckshot?

We'll probably never know the truth so let's speculate at a logical level!
Dick is perhaps the most informed, media-savvy Veep ever. And while he may be morally bankrupt he is not stupid. He knew the downside and the political cost, the inevitable criticisms associated with the delay in releasing the information. But somehow the political cost of the delay OUTWEIGHED the cost of reporting what really happened. There was a reason that motivated the delay beyond what they've said. He's admitted to drinking, his friend said he drank after the accident, but was he inebriated during the accident? The delay could be because he needed to sober up before talking to local law officials. Or perhaps Whittington was injured more severely than we've been told and they were not sure if he would make it. That would have required a whole different level of 'story-fixin'.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Friscobeat43 said...

The question is WHERE WAS GEORGE? Why wasn't he notified immediately? When POTUS is left out of the loop for any length of time I would hope that he would, as soon as he was told, call his employee and rip him a new a__ h____. The President, if he had any cajones, would have demanded a resignation on his desk first thing Monday morning. The commander-in-chief could have decided over the weekend to accept the resignation or not. Oh well, keep dreaming.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Ditto's analysis.
It makes me want to review the story to see how long Cheney waited before talking to law enforcement officials.
It reminds me of a few years ago when a rich, PR bitch mowed down a bunch of people with her SUV at a Long Island Party. It was alleged that due to her connections the police waited several hours before interviewing her so she could sober up.
Whether she had been drunk or not has subsequently always remained an open question.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"Cheney was, as Hume later described, "unapologetic," about his decision to delay releasing news of the accident, and to allow the ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, to release the news to a local newspaper, rather than take the more established route of releasing a statement to the White House press corps.


Now this is really rich. What on earth do you think there is to spin, David? Why would Cheney have to "defend" the decision to report a hunting accident that occurred in Corpus Christi, Texas to a Corpus Christi newspaper? I mean, really.

And as long as the accident was reported to the police ASAP, which it was, then what did it matter that it didn't get reported to the newspaper as quickly? Did waiting until the next morning hurt anything at all, other than David Gregory's mega ego? I don't think so.

"It's pretty clear, if not before then certainly from this interview, that Cheney has no love for the White House press corps, and saw no reason to include them in the "process."

Indeed. And why should he, considering how hostile they've always been towards this administration? I'm sure if it had been a case of Cheney himself being injured, the news would have been handled in a more official manner, since it would have involved a matter of national security. This was a private matter. Cheney was under no obligation to call the White House Press Corps.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Trinity, as you know, the press corps wasn't alone in questioning Cheney's decision.

Marlin Fitzwater, Ari Fleischer and David Gergen all questioned it, for essentially the same reasons. So did Cheney's long-time friends, Vin Weber and Robert Michel.

And it wasn't Cheney who released the information. It was a neighbor. What kind of precedent does that set? Should we allow private citizens to release news about the White House? Is that really how the White House wants things done?

Also, as David points out in the top post, Mrs. Armstrong had trouble getting her story straight -- which is why the established protocol of an official press statement is how things are done.

Part of the problem is that Cheney, nor the White House, never gave a plausible reason for allowing a private citizen to release this news. The unusual nature of the release of the news, on top of the delay -- the story hit the wires at 3:30 p.m. EST, not in the morning as you suggested -- opens the White House up to criticism and speculation, neither of which benefits it.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...
"Trinity, as you know, the press corps wasn't alone in questioning Cheney's decision."


Yes, cutiepie. And as we all know, opinions are like A-holes. Everybody has one. Not only that, but everybody is even entitled to have it. ;)

"And it wasn't Cheney who released the information. It was a neighbor. What kind of precedent does that set? Should we allow private citizens to release news about the White House?"

No. Except that this incident was NOT news about the White House. As I already stated, it was a private matter, on private property, and on the VP's own personal downtime.

David R. Mark said...and cutiepie repeated...
"So of course, it made more sense to allow a neighbor to relate the story to the local newspaper,


Where does this "neighbor" thing come from anyhow? You make it sound as though some random person called in the story to the newspaper.

Katharine Armstrong is, after all, the owner of the 50,000 acre ranch on which Cheney and the others were hunting. She was the VP's host, and responsible for what happens on her property.

Not only that, but she was also an eyewitness to the entire incident. I think it was absolutely appropriate for her to have called in the report. Jeeze, and your side always accuses everybody else of spin. :rolleyes:

1:18 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David Limbaugh's most recent opinion piece closely reflects my own thoughts on VP Cheney's hunting accident. Here is the opening paragraph. Better still, read the entire piece. You'll find the URL below.

"If I were to utter the statement "Vice President Dick Cheney is an extraordinarily decent man who doesn't deserve the unwarranted presumption of guilt affixed upon him by the Old Media," the statement would be met with profoundly polarized reactions.
No matter, I'll boldly step out here. Consider the statement made.


http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2006/2/17/121247.shtml

I could not agree more, and I particularly like the new phrase Mr. Limbaugh used to describe the formerly MSM. I think I'll use it myself from now on, as it's very appropos. Stick a fork in them. They're done.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Angelina's Evil Twin said...

WTF does that mean, Trinity?

The MSM may have its problems, but it isn't going away. More likely, the LIARS known as conservative talk radio hosts are DONE. Just bring back the legislation requiring FAIR AND BALANCED coverage, which ended in the mid-1980s, and poof, CONSERVATIVE KNOW-NOTHINGS won't have nearly as much influence on people's lives.

5:53 PM  

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